Tales of Monkey Island
A PC Review
by Radeen Moncrieffe
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Rating: 8/10 Head Spinning Puzzles
Released: 7th July, 2009
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS3, Wii
Price: £14.99 on Steam
Yes, it’s a bleak time for Telltale fans like myself. However, the recent announcement of the studio’s closure doesn’t stop me from playing their earlier titles, and today I will be revisiting the beloved season-long adventure game ‘Tales of Monkey Island’. Released almost a decade after the previous instalment in the franchise, ‘Tales’ chronicles the adventures of the mighty pirate Guybrush Threepwood accompanied by his wife, Elaine, traversing the Gulf of Melange in pursuit of his arch-nemesis, the undead pirate LeChuck.
While the initial premise may appear cliché, Telltale’s biggest strength lies in their ability to subvert tropes and use stereotypes as opportunities for humour. As such, the plot often takes unorthodox twists with refreshingly amusing results. In fact, the first episode showcases some of the funniest dialogue of any Telltale game, perhaps because the development team felt like they had a lot to prove when revisiting an established, dormant franchise.
Telltale’s attention to detail is reflected not only in the humour, but it also extends to the graphic and sound design—which have both aged gracefully. The bright cell-shaded visuals really amplify the game’s eccentric and, at times, ridiculous environments. This, coupled with beautiful voicework for the main characters, sets the tone for the game overall. Yet, ‘Tales’ isn’t bogged down by its own eccentricity, which is harmonised by the puzzles and sparse action sequences.
Admittedly, the puzzles do vary in quality and, perhaps because of how frequently the plot moves in unconventional directions, they can also feel at times erratic and jarringly arbitrary. While some of the riddles feel like they have rewarding payoffs, there are notable headscratchers that can be unintuitive and tedious.
Another issue with ‘Tales’ is the unfortunate lack of development of the supporting cast in the earlier episodes. Even though they do improve over the course of the game, the supporting cast lacks the personality and charisma of the main characters; this takes away from the otherwise spot-on world building, and it-s in an especially direct contrast with the development of Elaine and LeChuck. These two protagonists have well fleshed out character arcs that really pay off in the final episode. In fact, it’s how well portrayed the main characters are in the game that makes the supporting cast feel like a glaringly obvious oversight.
Ultimately, however, ‘Tales of Monkey Island’ is a charming title that exemplifies why Telltale is going to be sorely missed. The studio’s ability to make the game feel like a love letter to the prime of the adventure genre leaves you with a warm sense of nostalgia and, coupled with the laugh-out-loud humour, this is the perfect title to revisit and get your hooks on.